Employment Law This Week: Drivers Unionize, Wrongful Termination, Overtime for BlackBerry Use, OSHA Fine, and EU CybersecurityEpisode 9: Week of December 21, 2015 December 21, 2015
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This week’s stories include ...
(1) West Coast Tech Drivers Unionize
Our top story this week: Drivers for personal transportation company WeDriveU who drive Facebook employees to and from work have voted to unionize with the Teamsters. That brings the total to more than 450 shuttle drivers in Silicon Valley who have joined the union in the past 12 months. And last week, Seattle became the first city to give on-demand drivers the right to unionize over pay and working conditions. Hundreds of drivers in the city pushed for this legislation, which could kick-start the unionization effort for these kinds of jobs across the country. Adam Abrahms from Epstein Becker Green discusses this trend toward unionization. For more on the Teamsters and technology workers, see "Teamsters and Technology II – Labor’s 'Silicon Valley Rising' Campaign."
(2) Sarkisian Flags USC for Wrongful Termination
Fired University of Southern California (USC) football coach Steve Sarkisian has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in California state court against USC for, as he claims, “kicking him to the curb." The ex-football coach was fired after repeatedly coming to work intoxicated. He claims that the university discriminated against him for his alcoholism—which he alleges is a disability—and did not take his efforts to get treatment into account.
(3) No Overtime Pay for Off-Duty BlackBerry Use
A federal magistrate judge in the Northern District of Illinois ruled that time spent by Chicago police officers actually answering emails on their BlackBerries was work eligible for overtime. However, "monitoring" their BlackBerries was not work because the officers were still free to use the time predominantly for their own benefit. Regardless, the judge found that the city did not know that the officers were doing any work, and they failed to report it, so the officers were not entitled to any compensation. There is reportedly a plan to appeal. In mid-2015, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division requested information regarding the use of portable electronic devices by employees outside scheduled work hours; so, this issue is one to watch. For more on wage-and-hour lawsuits, watch "What’s Behind the 2015 Increase in FLSA Lawsuits?"
(4) Dollar Tree Agrees to $825,000 OSHA Fine
Retail store Dollar Tree has entered into a corporate-wide settlement agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under which the retailer has agreed to a hefty fine and continual monitoring of its stores across the United States. A third-party monitor will conduct audits on 50 Dollar Tree stores over the next two years. The agreement settles a wide range of complaints arising from 13 different OSHA inspections. The agency is increasingly using the tactic of issuing repeat citations for the same violations at different company worksites. This tactic could have a much bigger impact beginning next year, when OSHA fines are set to rise about 80 percent. For more on this story, see Valerie Butera's recent OSHA Law Update post.
(5) EU Takes Step to Improve Cybersecurity
The European Union (EU) recently agreed on new cybersecurity rules for critical infrastructure operators and multinational Internet service providers. This development comes as part of the larger EU cybersecurity strategy announced in 2013. The new law will mean additional breach reporting requirements and compliance measures for many digital service providers. After the agreement is ratified, member states will have 21 months to change their national laws and another six months to identify critical infrastructure operators. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this story as it develops.
Employment Law This Week will be back in the new year on Monday, January 11, with a special update on the laws that will be going into effect in 2016. Happy holidays, everyone! We’ll see you next year.
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